What is Normal Eating?

I have been putting in a few more hours at the eating disorders treatment center I work for, and keep getting asked by clients if what they are doing is “normal”. I have said it is normal to want a cookie even though you are full. I have said it is normal to not want a bowl of soup because you aren’t hungry for it, even though it is your favorite food. I have said it is normal to pass up a glass of milk when what you really want is hot chocolate. And I have said it is normal to not know what you want.

All of this talk about what “normal” is reminded me of a poem a professor shared in college. It is written by Ellyn Satter, a woman committed to helping individuals become confident in their relationship with food and themselves.

What is Normal Eating?
By Ellyn Satter

Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it -not just stop eating because you think you should.

Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.

Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.

Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.

Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.

Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.

Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

I like reflecting on this every once in a while. I think nearly everyone feels self-conscious with their eating habits every once in a while, and it is nice to know that what you are doing is “normal” – as long as you are enjoying your food choices and eating an amount that makes you happy in the moment.

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